Ten Books I Enjoyed Recently (last yearish) That Weren't My Typical Genre/ Type of Book (out of my comfort zone)
I started going through my reading list and found that this week's Top Ten topic kind of puts into perspective how very little I read books outside of my comfort zone. I used to read all kinds of books when I was in high school, hinging mainly on books that I thought people would be impressed by if I ever mentioned that I read it. Not that I didn't enjoy the books I read, but a lot of times I passed on books just because they weren't literary classics, or popular and trendy, or widely accepted as epic or awesome.
These days, I go by one simple reading mantra: Read what you like. Which means that if you like to read books about international espionage, or historically classic human drama, or sparkling vampires, or pervy unicorns, or action-packed murder mysteries with steamy sex and muscular men, then go forth and read to your heart's desire. We have comfort zones for reasons--it's like having somewhere to call home... in the way of reading books, I guess.
Comfort zone reading is simply a means to make yourself content when you have the need to make yourself content. More often than not, you're guaranteed to find joy in a comfort zone read--not that you can't find joy in a non-comfort zone read, but there are always high possibilities of disappointment. So there's nothing more enjoyable to me than being able to simply read within my comfort zone. Tried and true formulas, after all, are always wonderful.
And my comfort zone tends toward romantic suspense, crime thrillers, YA fantasies, sometimes YA dystopians, sometimes YA contemporaries, sometimes Adult contemporary romance, sometimes regular high fantasy, sometimes epic high fantasies... mainly fantasies and crime thrillers.
And also, there's always romance involved.
Every so often, I might pick up something a bit different--something that others would deem more "thought-provoking". But in the end, I always come back to my comfort genres.
So I guess it kind of doesn't come as a surprise to me that my list of books I've enjoyed recently outside of my comfort zone would be kind of short.
I might pick up more books outside my box. I might not. It all depends on my reading mood, really.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
by Neil Patrick Harris
audio book narrated by Neil Patrick Harris
The main book outside of my comfort zone I've enjoyed lately has been this. NPH is charming and wonderful and a wonderful narrator. This book is outside of my comfort zone mainly because I haven't touched anything non-fiction since I graduated from college. And even then, I never truly read a complete non-fiction work--they were all textbooks after all.
But I have a lot of love and respect for NPH and after listening to his autobiography found that I love him even more.
by Bram Stoker
audio book narrated by full cast, including:
Simon Vance, Alan Cumming, Katherine Kelgren, Tim Curry, et al.
As already stated somewhere else before, I had read Dracula back in my tween/teen days for school. Listening to the full cast audio production is a different experience all together and made this book, a horror classic, a lot easier to follow. In fact, it was downright delightful!
Horror is something I already don't touch if I can help it. And aside from reading Frankenstein in 2014, I hadn't actually touched a classic in a long, long time. These books are definitely outside of my comfort zone, even if the paranormal, gothic feel really isn't.
by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)
By all rights, The Silkworm really isn't completely outside of my comfort zone. It's a crime/mystery novel and I eat those up. But my recent foray into even anything crime thriller or mystery tends toward the category romances (i.e. romantic suspense). On top of that, however, The Silkworm turned out to be so much more than just your standard "Private Detective solving a crime mystery" type--a LOT of stuff went into this book from human drama to small, yet significant thought-provoking insight into life, in general, with little side shots at controversial subjects.
Queen Rowling is a genius, is all I've got to say.
The Luckiest Lady in London
by Sherry Thomas
Technically, this book is still kind of within my comfort zone. The only thing that makes it outside of my comfort zone is the time period. Because I don't often pick up historical books. I could probably count on one hand how many times I've picked up a historical novel within the past two years that weren't also tied to a high fantasy.
But reading historical all on it's own isn't something I've ever really been interested in. And being also that Historical Romances left a bad impression on me a long time ago, I'm also fairly hesitant to read anything in that specific genre.
But Sherry Thomas is an excellent writer and has this way of creating charming, lovable characters with her beautiful writing.
The School for Good and Evil
by Soman Chainani
Okay. This type of book used to be within my comfort zone. But I discovered a few years ago that I was readily becoming less inclined to pick up anything Middle Grade or younger. I'm just becoming way too far removed from that age. But still being able to kind of related with teenager thoughts, I can still read YA and be cool with them.
But I haven't enjoyed a Middle Grade novel since the first few Harry Potter books I read years ago. The last few Middle Grade or Childrens books I've read have been flops.
But it doesn't come as a surprise to me that I really ended up liking The School for Good and Evil after finishing it. It's solid writing and storytelling, even if it could have used a little more structure and resolution.
It's fairy tale-based and reminds me of a video game or anime, really, so I'm thinking that it's still pretty close to my comfort zone. But in a way, it's not, really...
Only five books. And three of them were really only slightly outside of my comfort zone. And the thing is, I've read a lot of other books outside of my comfort zone in the past year or two. But that doesn't mean that I enjoyed all of them. The five listed above were ones I enjoyed.
Following is a list of some that I found to be okay, but they wouldn't have made it onto the list of books I actually found enjoyment. But they are definitely outside of my comfort zone.
The Chopin Manuscript / The Copper Bracelet
collaborations by various authors
created by Jeffery Deaver
audio books narrated by Alfred Molina
While I DO read a lot of crime thrillers, as stated, they are typically written for romance readers, a la Romantic Suspense novels. Rarely are they Crime Thrillers simply for the sake of being Crime Thrillers with lots of explosions and lots of action. If that makes any sense.
Happily Ever Afters™ seem to be optional in these books. Happily Ever Afters™ are the norm in the Romantic Suspense books I usually read. Romance does not always seem significant to these books; romance is quite significant in the Romantic Suspense books I read. Probably why i usually pick one type of crime thriller over the other. Granted, these types of action/crime thrillers, in my opinion, are to men what Category Romance is to women... if we want to get all stereotype-y and specific. "Category Action", maybe? Maybe not?
If I'm wrong, let me know and I'll be happy to be schooled properly.
Anyway, while these two books were interesting with lots of action and lots of forward progression, I can't say they were my favorites.
77 Shadow Street
by Dean Koontz
also accompanying novella: The Moonlit Mind
I never thought I'd see the day when I pointed out a Dean Koontz novel as outside of my comfort zone. I used to auto-buy Dean Koontz books and inhale them. But I guess over time, tastes change and the next thing I know, 77 Shadow Street becomes the first Dean Koontz book I've touched since year one of college over ten years ago. And only because my coworker mentioned the words "haunted hotel".
Side note: 77 Shadow Street was typical Dean Koontz, but I can't say it was the best of Dean Koontz. On other hand, The Moonlit Mind was downright creepy... almost in a good way.
The Housekeeper and the Professor
by Yoko Ogawa
translated by Stephen Snyder
This was a delightful little human drama piece, detailing some day-to-day living of a math genius professor with only 80 minutes of short term memory before everything resets for him. We get to see what it's like to care for and slowly befriend this man through the eyes of his newest housekeeper, and as time goes by, the housekeeper and her son end up becoming a pretty important part of the old professor's life.
It's a sweet and inspirational read. And it was written beautifully. And I liked it. I just didn't love it. And yes, this book is well outside of my comfort zone.
by Maria Dahvana Headley
This book is half within my comfort zone and half outside of it. Ever since A Walk to Remember, I don't think I'd ever touched another book that was termed Sick Lit--though to be fair, Sick Lit wasn't exactly a thing back during the days of Nick Sparks and A Walk to Remember.
I don't like sad things and I like HEAs, thank you very much.
Magonia can easily be described as part Sick Lit, part Fantasy. Because that is exactly what it is. It's like two different books crammed into one using the same characters. It was a very strange experience for me. Fantasy is within my comfort zone--it's got a Castle in the Sky feel to it. Sick Lit is NOT within my comfort zone--I like my reading world extremely rose-colored and tinted with soft bunnies.